Definition and Types of English Verb

Definition and Types of English Verbs

English verbs serve as the backbone of our language, enabling us to convey actions, states, and conditions with precision and nuance. Understanding the intricacies of verbs is fundamental to mastering English grammar. In this exploration of English verbs, we will delve into their definition and various types of verbs.

Definition of Verbs

Verbs are a fundamental part of English speech and essential for constructing sentences and conveying meaning. A verb is a word that expresses an action, an occurrence, or a state of being. Verbs are often called “action words” because they describe actions that someone or something performs. However, not all verbs indicate physical actions; some describe mental actions, conditions, or existence.

Types of Verbs

There exist nine distinct types of verbs, which help us express actions, describe things, and connect ideas in the English. Understanding these verb types makes it easier to use language effectively.

1. Verb of Simple Present Tense

It is primarily used to describe actions that are habitual, regular, or facts that are generally true. Example: play, kick, study

In the case of the third person singular (he, she, it), an “-s” / “-es” is added to the base form. Example: plays, kicks, studies

2. Verb of Present Participle

It indicates ongoing actions, creates gerunds (nouns), and forms participial phrases. It is formed by taking the base form of a verb and adding “-ing” to it. For example, the present participle of the verb “walk” is “walking.”

3. Verb of Past Tense

Past tense verbs in English express actions or events that occurred in the past, and their form can vary.


  • Play becomes played
  • Kick becomes kicked
  • Study becomes studied
  • go becomes went
  • eat becomes ate

4. Verb of Past Participle

It is typically used with auxiliary verbs to create various verb tenses, including the past perfect, present perfect, and future perfect tenses. Example:

Base form / infinitive form3rd Person SingularPresent ParticiplePastPast participle
Verb of Past Participle

5. Regular Verbs

Regular verbs are a category of verbs that follow a predictable and consistent pattern when changing forms to express different tenses.

Regular verbs possess a base form, the simplest version of the verb found in dictionaries. In most cases, it matches the infinitive form (e.g., “to walk,” “to talk”).

Forming the past tense of regular verbs generally involves appending “-ed” to the base form. This rule applies to most regular verbs. Examples:

  • Walk (base form) transforms into walked
  • Talk (base form) becomes talked

6. Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs undergo unique changes in the past tense. These changes can include vowel shifts, spelling changes, or entirely different forms. Example:

Base form3rd Person SingularPresent ParticiplePastPast participle
GoGoesGoing  WentGone
Irregular Verbs

7. Linking verb

A linking verb, or copular verb, does not show an action taking place. Instead, they establish a link or relationship between the subject of a sentence and additional information about the subject. It helps to describe or identify the subject’s state, condition, or attributes.

a. Verbs to be

The words am, is, and are are also verbs, but they are not action words. They are the simple present tense of the verb be. Meanwhile, was and were are also forms of the verb be. Was is the simple past tense of am and is.

b. Verbs of the sense

They describe states: conditions or situations that exist. When verbs have stative meanings, they are usually not used in progressive tenses.

  • Mental state: know, believe, realize, feel, understand, suppose, recognize, think, imagine, want
  • Emotional State: Love, like, appreciate, please, prefer, hate, dislike, fear, envy, mind, care, astonish, amaze
  • Possession: possess, have, own, belong
  • Sense Perceptions: taste, hear, see, smell, feel
  • Other Existing States: seem, cost, be, consist of, look, owe, exist, contain, appear, weigh, matter include, sound, equal, resemble, look like

8. Phrasal Verb

Phrasal verbs contain a main verb and one or more particles (adverbs or prepositions). The main verb provides the core action or meaning, while the particle(s) modify or add to that meaning.


  • “Turn” (main verb) + “on” (particle) = “turn on” (phrasal verb)
  • “Take” (main verb) + “off” (particle) = “take off” (phrasal verb)

The meaning of a phrasal verb often cannot be deduced by simply looking at its components. Instead, it must be learned as a whole. Phrasal verbs frequently have idiomatic or figurative meanings that may not be immediately obvious.


  • Turn on (phrasal verb) means “to activate” or “start.”
  • Take off (phrasal verb) can mean “to remove” or “to become airborne” when referring to an aircraft.

9. Auxiliary Verb 

An auxiliary verb, also known as a “helping verb,” is used in conjunction with the main verb of a sentence to express various grammatical aspects, including tense, mood, voice, and more.

a. Tense

One of the primary functions of auxiliary verbs is to indicate the tense of an action or event.

Example: She is reading a book. (The auxiliary verb “is” indicates the present tense.)

b. Mood

Auxiliary verbs can also convey the mood of a sentence, such as indicating a request, a hypothetical situation, or a possibility.

Example: Could you please help me? (The auxiliary verb “could” indicates a polite request.)

c. Voice

In passive voice constructions, auxiliary verbs are used to change the focus of a sentence from the doer of the action to the receiver.

Example: The book was read by the student. (The auxiliary verb “was” is part of the passive construction.)

d. Negation and Question Formation

Auxiliary verbs are essential in forming negative sentences and questions.

Example: They do not like spicy food. (The auxiliary verb “do” is used for negation.)

 Was Have to
 Were Would
Auxiliary Verbs

References and Recommended Reading

  • Altenberg, E. P., & Vago, R. M. (2010). English grammar: Understanding the Basics. Cambridge University Press.
  • Azar, B. S. (1996). Basic English Grammar. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Regents.
  • Azar, B. S. (2003). Fundamentals of English Grammar: Chartbook: a Reference Grammar. White Plains, NY: Longman.
  • Azar, B. S., & Hagen, S. A. (2009). Understanding and using English grammar: Workbook. White Plains, N.Y.: Pearson Longman.
  • Ansell, M. (2000). Free English Grammar Second Edition.
  • Barduhn, S., & Hall, D. (2016). English for Everyone–English Grammar Guide. New York: DK Publishing.
  • Herring, P. (2016). Complete English Grammar Rules. California: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Murphy, R., Smalzer, W. R., & Nguyễn, T. T. (2000). Grammar in Use: Intermediate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Murphy, R., & Čhakramāt, S. (2002). Essential grammar in use (Vol. 20010). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tenry Colle
Tenry Colle

Hi! My name is A. Tenry Lawangen Aspat Colle. I am a motivated and resourceful English educator. In addition, as the owner of @rymari.translation17 has shaped me to be a punctual and dependable translator of Indonesian to English and vice versa.

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